Monday, May 28, 2007

New Website!

We're working behind-the-scenes to revamp the look of things around here. Here's a sneak peek of changes to come:

* More photos, FINALLY. Some before and after pics, projects in-progress, and many more taken seasonally or annually after completion. More illustrative.
* Comprehensive info about our background, individually and collectively.
* Separate sections for 'upcoming events', as well as past events.
* More articles written by us and about us.
* Better organization, in general, of pertinent info.

Our goal is to launch the next incarnation of by June 1st. Please check back and take a tour of the new place. And please do offer your feedback. Thanks!

Happy Memorial Day!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Green Living

I've posted many times about my affinity for Green Living, the environmental general store located in Lakewood Shopping Center in Dallas. Recently a friend sent a link to a newsletter by the same name. Interested? Check out the "green living" tab on, or go directly there:

Some Recommendations for Greening Up

Green Fever seems to be spreading around the world, as more people are becoming aware of the impact of their actions on the planet. We have not changed our consumption habits -- much -- but we have at least begun to shift to more planet-friendly products and services. People ask me all the time for tips to 'green up' their lives. Here are a few of my favorites. They are easy, cost-conscious and still related to sustainable landscaping (if only indirectly.)

  1. Take your own bags when you shop. Both plastic and paper retail bags (aka 'single use bags') expend abundant resources during the manufacturing, distribution and even recycling process. Besides, have you ever walked around your neighborhood creek, especially after it's rained? Blue or white plastic bags litter the banks, float in the water or hang in trees; use reusable bags made from natural fibers to do your part to minimize contamination of our local waterways.
  2. Use empty glass jars, not plastic containers, to store leftovers. (Of course, glass is not a good option when freezing leftovers.) Plastic releases toxins into your food; glass does not. Besides, finding other uses for your empty pickle, salsa or other jars keeps them from ending up in the landfill. They are recyclable, but even that process is highly energy-consumptive.
  3. Open windows when outdoor temperatures are below 85 degrees. OK, so maybe this one is not so easy for most of us. Your body will quickly adapt--trust me. Pros: cost savings on energy bill and fresh air blowing through your home. Low-effort method of dusting, too. ;-) Cons: HOT until your body adjusts to life with limited air-conditioning.
  4. Add more plant-based meals into your daily regimen. I'm not suggesting everyone go vegan or vegetarian, but regardless of our lifestyle, we ALL could use more greens, in particular. To learn why, pick up Green For Life by Victoria Boutenko. Another great book I've just completed is The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose. Adding more greens and other raw fruits and vegetables increases your health, but also the planet's. Grow your own--less impact on resources than The Lawn and actually provides health benefits (organic foods!)
  5. Read Po Bronson's What Should I Do With My Life? Not related to plants, environmental issues, or anything green. It's just a great read. (Note: After reading it last fall I was able to focus on my priorities and have been a much happier person as a result. One thing I discovered was that I missed the outdoors. Last year I was cooped up in the office all day, everyday, without any physical activity. This year I've set aside time to hike and play. Still not enough but I'm getting there...)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cool Upcoming Events

Don't miss the Sierra Club's Green Home Tour next Saturday, May 26th, 10a-5p. There are two stops--the Olp Residence and Buzz Condos. Watch local papers for detailed info, or you may visit Their tour brochure is located here: We will have a vendor booth at the Olp house.

The following Saturday, June 2nd, is City of Dallas WaterWise Tour, 9a-3p. If you are interested in seeing one of our projects (now 2yrs old), please plan to visit the Whitehead Residence on Mapleridge in Plano. Check out the brochure here:

Also, soon "Supercharge Me: 30 Days Raw" will be coming to our area. I've read tremendous, positive reviews about this 'rawcumentary'. Visit the website at and sign-up for updates. This film has been quite popular at various film festivals. I know I'm interested in seeing it!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Plants Play Many Roles

We all know plants can be pleasing, if only interesting, to the eye. Sometimes they appeal to our sense of smell, touch or taste. Wildlife depend on plants for food and shelter, too. Did you know they may help to repel mosquitoes, as well? According to Beyond Pesticides, an online resource for non-toxic alternatives to synthetic pesticides, certain citrusy-based plants help to do just that. Scented Geranium, Lemon Grass, and "herbs like Oregano, Catnip, or sweet and holy basil" may be used to create "barriers" around your property. Of course, the 'site also suggests removing old tires and other objects that may collect water. For more tips for enhancing your backyard and barbecue experiences this summer, visit, and click on "Tools for Change" in the left margin.

Green, leafy plants -- like Dandelion greens and kale -- are packed with protein, calcium, magnesium and a host of off-the-chart levels of other vitamins and minerals. Grow them organically, and you save yourself from the carcinogens inherent in synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals. Imagine: gardening with greens would benefit your body and the planet. And you don't need a lot of land (or any) to do it. Look for my upcoming article in As We Are Magazine ( to be published online May 29th. In it I will address organic gardening with greens and herbs, and how to get the most of their myriad nutritional benefits.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Email's Back!

The transition to went off with only a couple of minor hitches. Our website was completely down for about 12 hours from Friday afternoon to mid-Saturday morning. If you look at the time and date stamp on the previous post, you will notice I made the final changes at about 3am. I hate it when I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about technological things...The other issue, far more inconvenient, was that emails were not being delivered. changed settings on their end, but it wasn't until yesterday that we figured out what I needed to do on my end. Blah blah blah, doesn't matter, right? Everything is in proper working order now. So, again, if I have not responded to your emails, please resend or call. We're up-and-running! Thanks everyone for your patience--switching to was another important step toward reducing our impact on the planet.

And I must give huge THANKS for all their help!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Please be advised...

Friday, May 11th, we changed hosting companies to, because they are a green business powered by wind and sun. They plant a tree to honor each of their clients! We believe in this company and look forward to building our relationship with them. Consequently, our website was down for several hours until some settings had been changed (on our end, not thinkhost's.) But email is down, so until it's up-and-running again, I'll not receive your messages. I haven't received any messages since about 4:30pm on Friday...please bear with us while we upgrade! Many, many thanks.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Best Flower Power

D Home Magazine has included us in their annual “Best of Everything” issue! We are listed on pg. 98 as “Best Flower Power.”

This is an enormous honor for us. 2007 has been an interesting year: we have completely phased out installations and maintenance due to increased interest in our design and consultation services. After much soul-searching and business planning, we determined our mission was to effect change, not build a mammoth landscape company. So, beginning November 2006, we began referring out all the labor tasks. This was a huge (understatement) risk. It’s starting to pay off…

Several of our designs have won awards this year—please visit our website for the (growing) list. I’ve been able to devote time to writing, too. I contribute regularly to HOME Your Guide to Exclusive Living and, in addition to blogging at Soon I will have a regular piece in a start-up magazine; details will be posted to our website soon. We are involved in a number of volunteer projects, speaking engagements, and other neat stuff.

Thank you for your support, whether you’ve shared this journey with us for decades or just recently joined the parade.

EDIT: Check out David's manly off-white hemp button-down shirt and my (cough) elegant organic cotton blouse with hemp/organic cotton denim mini-skirt.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Week of Green

In case you missed it, last Saturday's Live Green in Plano Expo was a tremendous success. Kudos to all the organizers, especially Heather Merchant, who invested innumerable, exhaustive hours in the planning and execution of this event. I was bowled over by the availability of green technologies, from solar panels to rainwater catchment systems to my new favorite business, Nature Maids (, a 'green cleaning service.' Heard Museum and Discovery Gardens were there, as were Master Gardeners and Native Plant Society of Collin County. Around our booth, there was a party going on. Scores of people -- some former clients, some brand-spanking-new folks, some old friends we've lost touch with -- dropped by to say 'hello' and encouraged us to keep on, keeping on. We had a terrific time meeting with a slew of new folks. Thanks to all of you for stopping by!

Sunday we went to the dog park. Folsom desperately needed an outlet for energy accumulated while we were at the Expo.

Tonight (Tuesday the 8th) we attended City of Plano's Environmental Community Awards (I was the keynote speaker at last year's event.) We carpooled with our buddy Michele Dave. Although we missed the dinner portion of the banquet, we arrived in time to see all of the award presentations. I always enjoy watching PISD students being recognized for their contribution to Tshirt contests, environmental club activities, or their neighborhood's residential recycling program. Their delighted faces when they receive an award or certificate warm my heart. Keep it up, kiddos; you are the future of our planet. We are depending on YOU to heal our planet's environmental wounds.

We created landscape designs for two of the three nominees for the Keep Plano Beautiful Campus Beautification Award. Shepard Elementary took home the trophy -- way to go Patriots! Their Becky's Memorial Garden, herb garden and Patriot Garden are worth a visit. Students and student/buddy teams installed all of the plants, along with guidance from parents and staff. They truly deserve this award.

Plano Senior High and Hickey Elementary's Environmental Clubs received the Outstanding Environmental Club Awards. I'm impressed by what the high school students and their sponsor have organized, but I'm personally proud of my old friend, Jennifer Barnaby, Environmental Coordinator for Hickey Elementary. Good going, Golden Girl!

The awards continued...we were presented with the 2007 Environmental Community Partnership Award. WOW! This is a great honor for us, and the award itself is LOVELY. (Congratulations to Deb Bliss for its design!) It was our pleasure to be included in the list of nominees, along with Elliot's Hardware and REI. Congratulations to the other nominees for their efforts to combine environmentalism with volunteerism to benefit our community.

Michele was recognized for Environmental Community Outreach for the environmental initiatives she has facilitated with Kids Saving the Earth at Daffron Elementary. Her student members, as well as her own children, understand their impact on the planet on a much deeper level than most adults I know. And that's a good thing, since they will be in charge of cleaning up our oopsies. Overall, I'm encouraged by the dedication these students have to doing what's right for the planet.

Let's all give a round of applause to all the award recipients! In addition to our committed city employees, we are fortunate to have an army of devoted volunteers who do whatever it takes to make this a better place for all of us. Thank you, especially to the volunteers who work behind the scenes and seldom garner recognition.

Friday, May 04, 2007

If We Have Not Responded to Your Emails...

Twice today I've spoken with new clients who returned their questionnaire to us via email, and in both cases we have never received them. This happened a few weeks ago. Actually, it's been going on periodically for a few months. I've checked spam folders and filters and services with our webhosting company, and there seems to be no reason for the elusive email messages. Weird.

So if you have attempted to contact us and have received no response, David and I send our sincerest apologies. We are working with technical powers-that-be to discover the reason. Until that oddball issue is resolved, please call us to follow-up if we have not responded to your email. I promise we're not ignoring you; we don't even know you're there. Yet. ;-)

Gotta love technology...


Now that I have your attention...;-)

Tomorrow is the first-annual Live Green in Plano Expo, 9am to 5pm, at the Plano Centre on Spring Creek Pkwy and Jupiter Road, just east of 75/Central Expwy. The list of vendors is impressive, as is the roster of speakers. Howard Garrett the Dirt Doctor will deliver the keynote address, and there will be multiple how-to demonstrations going on in the tents outdoors. Visit the event website for detailed info:

FYI, our presentation titled "Landscape Makeover: Easy Steps Toward Sustainability" begins at 11:15am in the Redbud Tent.

Throughout the event we will have a vendor booth bursting with plants native HERE, to the Blackland Prairie, as well as a few other green-living items for sale. Here is a teaser:

Free at the booth:
organic cat nip from
other goodies

For sale at the booth:
100% organic cotton tshirts ($20ea)--have 2 L, 1 XL
Bag-E-Wash ($10ea)
Prairie Flame Leaf Sumac (not to be confused with Poison Sumac)
Spineless Cactus (yes, it really has no prickly things)
hard-to-find plants (will post the complete list just before the event...trying to build suspense here! ;-)

Each plant will be labeled with common and botanical names, as well as care and maintenance instructions and fun facts. Some of the plants require full sun or shade, and others adapt well to a variety of lighting and soil conditions. Each plant will be clearly labeled accordingly. We will also have our portfolio on-hand.

Hope to see you all there!

Also tomorrow is the native plant sale hosted by Native Plant Society of Texas, Garland Chapter. I love that group! Spunky, fun and committed to community outreach. Please support their efforts by visiting the sale! After you attend the Expo, of course. ;-)

From their poster:
"The Native Plant Society of Texas Garland Chapter
"Last Chance Plant Sale"
Saturday, May 5th.
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
312 Carissa Dr. Mesquite, 75150
(Near the Intersection Belt Line and Northwest Dr.)
Call either 972-226-6825 for more information.
4 inch $2 & 1 gallon $4

The sale includes both Heirloom and Native plants. Some of the plants include: Blue and Pink Petunias, Winecups, Cutleaf Daisies, Mexican Buckeyes, Casterbean, Red Salvia, Turks Cap, Inland Sea Oats, Cashmere Bouquet, Monarch Vine, Bog Sage, Violets, Tropicanna Cannas, Salvia Garantica, Yarrow, Cowpen Daisies, Datura and Lyre Leaf sage. These are just a few of the many plants in the sale. For a more complete listing and a few photos of the sale plants see our web page: Please come out and buy some native and adapted plants for your yard.

The money is used to support bluebird houses, maintaining the demonstration gardens, local school gardens, honorariums for the volunteer native plant speakers and other native plant community projects. Last year, we bought a beautiful sign for the Texas Discovery Gardens – Native Plant Garden. We also donated to our State office library which is open to the public.
If you have any plants to donate, please call the number above or bring them by the plant sale between 9-10am. Please invite any friends or neighbors. We welcome everyone.

See you on Saturday May 5th!"

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Weep for the Wildflowers

This afternoon we were driving home from meeting with a new client in SE Denton County and decided to stop at one of our favorite fields. I couldn't believe my eyes: there were Mealy Cup Sage, Purple Shrubby Skullcap, Four Nerve Daisy, Gayfeather, Winecup, and many, many other in-full-bloom native species. No irrigation, no fertilizers, no intervention by human hands. The colors are lovely, but I couldn't help but feel a spark of sadness. This field will soon be plowed over to build an office building or a small hamlet of enormous homes, and the gorgeous blooms of the Blackland Prairie will once again be sacrificed. Less than .004% of this region exists today, due to overgrazing, single crop rotation, and irresponsible housing and commercial developments. Truly, it doesn't have to be this way. Build the shopping mall, fine. I appreciate conveniences as much as the next person. But require ALL NATIVE PLANTINGS in medians, commercial projects, HOA commons areas, and at least front yards of residential properties. Texas has more than 6,300 native plant species; there is absolutely no reason to plant Red-Tipped Photinia, Nandina, Japanese Boxwood, or Japanese Honeysuckle. We have plenty of colorful, drought-hardy native species that will provide year-round interest.

Momentum for restoring our ecosystem is on our side, as exponentially more property owners are demanding NATIVES over traditional landscape plants. However, we have a very long road to travel. There are innumerable opportunities to help restore Texas. We embrace the few companies who are familiar/interested in working with natives and sustainable design techniques, and hope that we can work cooperatively to take back Texas from the exotic-invasive species steamrolling our natural areas. If you can't find a contractor or nursery in your area to provide the plants we recommend, please be patient. Change is happening, in real time, before our eyes. Our goal is to bring into the fold as many designers, contractors, maintenance professionals and nurseries who promote NATIVES and sustainable design. Our approach can only then become mainstream and, ultimately, return Texas to Texans.

But beware of "greenwashing." Any company that purports itself to be "native" or "sustainable", and recommends Crepe Myrtle, Burford Holly, or Red-Tipped Photinia and any plants mentioned in the same sentence in Paragraph #1, is just "greenwashing." None of these plants, like many traditional landscape plants, is native. In many cases, these plants become exotic-invasive, which means they take over native vegetation. They choke out the sources of food and shelter that native wildlife depend on. If any of us truly love Texas, we should not only STOP landscaping with these nuisance plants, we should initiate legislation that abolishes the growing, selling or planting of them.

Communities that require high percentages of native plantings have observed jaw-dropping appreciation values of their property. Check out "Sustainable Communities" such as Seaside, Florida. The market is leveling out now, but home values are still remarkably high.

Together, we can guide Texas to restore its natural beauty AND drive up property values, which will only improve our appearance and economy. We have a beautiful state, and opportunities to retain its biodiversity, but we all must do our part.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's the Little Things

Native Verbena blooming in neglected fields makes me smile. Butterflies resting on my Four Nerve Daisy remind me the interconnectedness of me to my garden, to wildlife, to nature's processes. Each time I see new growth on my basil or rosemary or mixed greens I feel I'm reconnecting with my farming roots. (Pun intended, :-) These simple pleasures pick me up when I'm feeling tired or stressed out or downright confused.

Recently our projects and we have received accolades and recognition. I appreciate the folks who nominated us as much as the awards themselves. We love what we do, but it's also nice to get a pat on the back once in a while.

Last night one of our clients in Richardson emailed that his landscape has won "Yard of the Month" in his neighborhood. Wow! We had discussed recently photographing his project for our portfolio, and he wanted to let us know the YOTM sign will be installed this week. Thinking about it, I find I'm smiling at my computer. To some this might be a small accomplishment but to me it's part of something huge--it's one piece of the Blackland Prairie that has been partially restored. It's one project of many that represents our local natural beauty in a residential context; it demonstrates that a native plant landscape CAN be natural yet conform to community standards. It's colorful and vibrant, and survives on significantly less water than the neighbors' landscapes. It's organic and low-maintenance.

A cultural shift has begun...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Learn to Live Green this Saturday

Mark your calendars for Live Green in Plano Expo, scheduled for this Saturday, May 5th, from 9am to 5pm. We will be speaking in the Redbud Tent at 11:15am. Our topic is "Landscape Makeover: Easy Steps Toward Sustainability." We have a lot of info to share! Check the event site for specific info: Hope to see you there!

We will also have plants for sale -- nothing but natives. Even some hard-to-find ones! I'll post a complete list on Friday.

Attendees will receive something special, too!

Some of our work published

Today the inaugural issue of launched! My bi-monthly column appears under the tab "Air, Earth, Fire, Water"--perfect place for this ecogeek. The first topic relates to water conservation; next one will be titled "Death By Lawn." I will describe our fascination with the most wasteful, laborious element in our landscape (The Lawn) and offer suggestions for breaking this habit. I hope you will tune in periodically. Articles and other interesting stuff will be uploaded several times per week, eventually updated daily.

Home Your Guide to Exclusive Living is moving to publishing every other month beginning in June. If you would like to subscribe, please visit their website at and click on 'subscribe.' My column deals with landscape and environmental issues related to Dallas-Ft. Worth-Denton.

A few other projects are in the works. I'll make announcements as details are available. Thank you for your continued support. Together we CAN get out the message to conserve, preserve, restore and celebrate.

Dogwoods Are Blooming

Rough-Leaf Dogwood are everywhere along 'our creek.' Lovely white blooms brighten the shady limestone banks--lovely. I'll post pics later.